The Baby Buds were in full bloom this past weekend – and the newest seed sown in the Toronto Maple Leafs farm system reaped the biggest reward, as 2006 first-rounder Jiri Tlusty led the Leafs’ rookies to a successful defense of their rookie tournament crown at the 2006 Toronto Rookie Tournament at Richo Coliseum.
The Leafs rookies defeated the Montreal Canadiens prospects 3-2 in the championship game of the four-team rookie tournament on Sept. 12. The other two clubs participating in the tournament, the Florida Panthers and the CIS squad from York University played earlier in the day, with the Panthers prospects topping the York squad 9-1.
The hometown hosts bested the Canadiens prospects for the second time in the tournament to take home the top honors. The Habs were coming into this game looking for revenge after a tournament-opening defeat to the Leafs, but came up a little short, rebounding from a 2-0 deficit only to watch as Tlusty slipped his fourth goal of the tournament past Carey Price (1st round, 2005) with just under three minutes remaining to pace Toronto to an eventual 3-2 victory and tournament crown.
The Leafs’ prospects went 4-0 in the tournament and had three of the top five scorers in the tournament. Free-agent Brent Aubin (5 goals, 6 assists) and 2003 fifth-rounder John Mitchell (2 goals, 9 assists) tied for the tournament point-scoring lead with 11 points, while Tlusty (4 goals, 4 assists), and Montreal’s fifth-round selection in 2005 Mathieu Aubin (4 goals, 4 assists) and 2005 seventh-rounder Sergei Kostitsyn (2 goals, 6 assists) rounded out the top five. The Canadiens’ second 2006 second-round selection, Mathieu Carle, led all defensemen in the tournament — despite missing the better part of the first two games — with seven points on two goals and five assists, all of which were scored in a 15-1 rout of the York Lions.
Mike D’Agostini (6th round, 2005) was the leading goal scorer in the tournament, with five goals in the four games, while Drew Larman, Stefan Meyer (2nd round, 2005), and Franklin MacDonald paced the Panthers prospects with five points each. Panthers first-rounder Michael Frolik (2006) had a hat trick in the final game against York, a 9-1 drubbing to end the tournament, in which the Panthers peppered the shell-shocked lions with 61 shots on goal.
The York University club was clearly overmatched in this tournament, surrendering 37 goals against while only accounting for three goals in total. Toronto’s club, led by goaltending stalwart Justin Pogge (3rd round, 2004), only gave up 10 goals all tournament, while the Habs prospects put on the greatest offensive show, scoring 27 goals in the four games.
From here, the various prospects will either join their NHL rights’ holders in this weekend’s upcoming training camps, or will be sent to join their junior or minor pro club. This tournament featured not only drafted and signed prospects, but also various players who joined the clubs on a tryout basis.
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